Jun 14, 2012, 1:27 PM
Post #10 of 14
ODE TO SPOUSAL MEMBERSHIP
Re: [ms] Spouse situation at yacht clubs
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By Connie and Rick Bischoff, Coral Reef Yacht Club members
In order for yacht clubs to continue to operate successfully, many people believe (us included) clubs need to insure for themselves a sufficiently broad pool of talented and committed members who love boating and sailing and who want (and be eligible) to serve in leadership positions on all committees, on the Board of Directors and on the Flag. By restricting the right to serve to only one person in each couple, the clubs are depriving themselves of a great source of energy and skills. One couple… one vote… two active volunteers… sounds like a “no brainer” to us. Surely not having spousal membership policies will hamper attracting new membership couples who both sail. It also seems to us that young couples who are both professionals (as many are today) will think twice about joining a club where only one can ever rise to a position of leadership.
Last year at our club in South Florida, some directors were wracking their brains seeking ways to enhance the number of prospects for membership. As was the case in yacht clubs throughout the country, membership rolls had declined and young prospects seemed harder and harder to entice into joining. When we were asked to put our thoughts into solutions, we suggested, among other ideas, to consider the implementation of spousal membership policies, as we understood that they had had some success elsewhere in gaining young members. As sometimes happens when one innocently makes a suggestion, it follows that they are implored to expand on the theme.
Thus, a number of folks sought out the experiences of other clubs who reportedly had positive results of policies relating to membership arrangements where both spouses can be committee members, committee chairs, members of the Board of Directors, flag officers and yes both can represent the Club as race entrants; in short “spousal memberships.” We relate our findings with some misgivings as the representations about what other clubs may have done was not “officially” verified and thus their results may be seen as successful to differing degrees depending upon what member one might talk to.
Our group found five examples of spousal membership policies at the following five clubs:
Sarasota Yacht Club apparently found its solution through an interesting process. In 2006, SYC decided to hire a marketing company to conduct a study of community attitudes about the club across Sarasota County. They were hoping to find some solutions to the difficulty in growing membership. The answer was a simple one. The results of the resulting 85 page report could be summarized as saying that SYC was “stale, pale and male”. Although this sounds cruel, SYC saw that it gave them an opportunity to grow. SYC began to take a number of steps to change, including how they treat memberships. Instead of limiting membership to only one person per family, they switched to joint family memberships or spousal memberships. This innovation has proven to be successful, say some of their members as evidenced by the fact that their recent Commodore was a “spouse”. They naturally have rules which say that only one family member can be a director or flag officer at a time; but that either family member can serve on a committee and that the female spouses are not limited in their committee involvement to Ladies Day, Entertainment and Race Committee. We were advised that their By-Laws Article VIII now details their membership policies as follows:
Active Members shall be twenty-one (21) years of age or older. Active Membership may be held by an individual or by a married couple. Active Members shall have all Club privileges including the right to hold office and to vote. Both spouses of a married couple, however, may not hold office concurrently nor may their names appear simultaneously on any ballot for elected office.
The By-laws of Newport, RI’s Ida Lewis Yacht Club state, we were advised, that “a membership can stand in a family name and shall include children under 23 and shall be entitled to one vote. Anyone can be the head of a committee; only a member can be a flag officer. A spouse can head up a committee and serve on the board if nominated and elected”. Although this is not full spousal membership, it goes some way beyond other clubs. We suspect that their membership policies reflect some other goals beyond merely enhancing membership as we also understand the Ida Lewis continues to have a long waiting list for new members.
Eau Gallie Yacht Club has gotten a lot of attention recently at the Florida Council of Yacht Club meetings as the fastest growing yacht club in the state. Their membership is over 900 with a lot of young members who especially like the new exercise room. Deborah Palmer, their Membership Coordinator reports that they also have joint memberships or spousal membership. Their By-Laws state:
A Resident Member is a person or married couple over the age of 21 years who maintains a legal residence in Brevard County, Florida. Only Resident Members may vote or serve as a member of the Board of Governors. In the case of a married couple both the husband and wife are equal members, with all rights and privileges of a Resident Member, but are considered as a single joint Resident Member for the following purposes:
i. There is only one vote per resident membership, which can be signed by either member
ii. Only one member of the couple can be nominated for or serve on the Board of Governors at a given time
iii. Both individuals are jointly responsible for financial obligations to the Club
Another club which has taken an innovative approach is American Yacht Club in Rye, New York, a very active sailing club on the Long Island Sound. We were told that when someone becomes an active member at American (limited to 375 families with potentially 750 voting members), both husband and wife are members and each has their own vote, can serve on committees, and are full members in their own right. Apparently this feature has been given credit for the expansion of young families and their junior sailing program.
At Marco Island Yacht Club, where the recent Chairman of the Board is a spouse, the By-laws have no mention of who can or cannot serve, and there are spouses on the Finance Committee and the Board of Directors. Article V of their By-Laws states that all memberships shall be held only by private individuals. Membership shall be for a maximum of two persons residing in same legal household with one person designated as the Principal who shall have the voting rights. Unless otherwise designated in a letter to the Secretary and signed by both persons, the first name appearing in the Membership shall be presumed to be the Principal. Both Members of the Membership shall be jointly and severally responsible for the debts of the Membership.
Coconut Grove Sailing Club has recently signed a fifteen year lease as it is located upon city property. Its dues are $250/ year, its membership is up to 800 members (despite only 51 parking spots), its food and beverage service is making a profit and its boat storage rates are very reasonable. Its website states that “Regular/family Memberships have one vote in club matters and club privileges are extended to the entire family, (children up to age 20)”. Its previous Commodore, Alyn Pruitt, is a perfect example of the benefits of joint membership: he is a “spouse”, i.e., the husband of the original member.
Nonetheless, not all clubs will find themselves able to adopt new membership policies, much less to embrace “spousal membership”. Their boards of directors (after all, that is who makes these decisions) may adamantly declare that the “talent pool” of their individual members is more than sufficient for the future. (Some of us may wonder whether the same conclusion would be reached by outsiders…or by a survey of spouses.) Some clubs may not have (or believe they do not have) a problem registering new young family members. Others may assert that opening up “membership” to spouses who may not have been “vetted” might “cheapen” the membership or might or injure the club’s “Corinthian” culture!
Sometimes it seems as if no one in a club’s decision-making hierarchy believes as if existing spouses are not already a part of the club’s family. Maybe, in some cases, they aren’t.
A proud, but spousal member of Coral Reef Yacht Club and a member of the Race Committee
A CRYC Member, CRYC Race Committee Member, past Board Member, past Chair of numerous committees and Past Commodore of CRYC